WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Monday denied holding up a U.S. aid package to Ukraine if its then-incoming president refused to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
"I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I won't give you aid," he told reporters on the sidelines of an U.N. General Assembly session in New York.
Democratic lawmakers and 2020 White House hopefuls spent much of last week and the weekend saying Trump broke the law by doing just that, which would have the president seeking a personal benefit and trying to use U.S. government resources to do so, which could violate federal laws.
The call included an alleged "promise" by Trump to Zelensky that caused an U.S. intelligence official to file a formal complaint; the administration is refusing to turn over the complaint document to Congress, as required by law.
But earlier Monday, the president all but confirmed he discussed Joe and Hunter Biden with Zelensky during a July 25 telephone conversation.
"It's very important to talk about corruption. If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?" he told reporters. "It's very important that, on occasion, you speak to somebody about corruption."
As vice president, Joe Biden came under scrutiny from the Obama administration State Department and media for pushing for Ukraine's previous government to crack down on corruption while Hunter Biden served on the energy company's board of directors. Some in the State Department raised concerns about conflicts of interest.
No government entities in the United States nor Ukraine has suggested Joe or Hunter Biden acted inappropriately or broke any laws.
Trump opened the line of attack on Biden last week as RealClearPolitics' average of a handful of public opinion polls shows gave the former vice president and longtime Delaware senator an 11.7-percentage point lead nationally over Trump in a hypothetical general election race.
An animated Biden over the weekend accused the president creating a straw man out of pure political desperation.